Friday, June 5, 2009

Oh, Hindsight - Why Must You Be 20/20?

It never fails. I do it every time. I always get my hopes up for what I think will be a splendid event, and the event is almost always lame. This time the event was last Sunday's Japan Day at Central Park in New York City.

Here is a view of the crowd with the stage in the background. The turnout was good, which makes me happy. A little. I want everyone to love Japan the way I do, then I'm jealous when I discover that people other than myself actually do love Japan. Unreasonable, I know. So I had mixed emotions when I saw the crowd at Japan Day.

I was happy to see Asians because it made me think that they were homesick, and I was also pleased to see non-Asians who seemed curious about Japanese culture. In the picture above, there are a mikoshi (a miniature shrine carried by parade participants) and a dancing man dressed in traditional clothing in the distance. We didn't get close enough to determine what kind of festival was being represented, but everyone looked as if they were enjoying themselves.

Then I see these otaku weirdos, and I'm embarrassed. This is a burgeoning subculture that's obsessed with Japanese anime, and they like to dress up as anime characters at events such as this. They were out in full force at a Cherry Blossom Festival we attended at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a couple of years ago.

Notice the couple wearing kimono and carrying parasols. The guy was videotaping everything while walking around. Why? I wonder if they sit around and watch the footage to relive the special moments from Japan Day.

The worst part about this event were the long lines. There was a line at every tent, whether it was for an activity like calligraphy or for the food. The picture above is the food tent with the lines for each of the five food samples - chow mein, gyoza, gyudon, miso soup, and sanuki udon noodles - snaking through the middle of the East Meadow.

This lady is holding a sign for the miso soup line. The bottom of her sign reads, "Waiting 50 minutes." We were starving when we arrived, but we had no interest in waiting almost an hour for a bowl of miso soup. The people who did are troopers, and I hope they enjoyed it. If I'm going to wait in a line that long, it's going to be for a ride at Disney World or something. And I don't even like doing that.

Here's a line for people waiting to learn about saori zen weaving. It's a kind of free-style weaving that encourages individuality based on Zen Buddhist philosophy. I find this concept interesting because Japan has a homogenous culture where individuality is normally not accepted. Anyway, I didn't weave, but I learned about saori in Chopsticks NY and found a couple of websites and a studio in NYC that teaches it. I should take a class!


Here's a line for the calligraphy tent. I think people were learning how to paint their names in Japanese. I'm not really sure, though, because I didn't wait in this line, either. My name in Japanese looks like this: スーザン. Cool, huh?

There was even a line to look at the map for the event!

This was the cutest line: people waiting to have their pictures made with Hello Kitty. She looked resplendent in her spring kimono. I saw more adults pose with Hello Kitty than children. I found that interesting. At least the little girl on the left was able to meet her.



















I wondered if there were children who never had the chance to take their pictures with Hello Kitty because too many adults clogged the line.

I accidentally cut in front of people in this line. It was right next to the Hello Kitty tent, and I walked over and picked up the June issue of Chopsticks NY and a brochure about the "currently popular sightseeing spots" in Japan. I looked up and realized I was right in the middle of the line at the Welcome to Japan Day tent. No one said anything, but I felt like a real jackass. The lines diminished the luster of this event for me, but I'm glad a lot of people were able to do the activities and enjoy themselves. I learned a couple of new things about Japanese culture, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. After we made a loop through all of the lines, Marc and I made our way to the 6 train to eat ramen at Menkui Tei in the East Village. There wasn't a line for that, thank goodness.



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